President C. L. Max Nikias announced in a letter to the USC community Tuesday that the University had terminated a health center gynecologist in June 2017 after an investigation into allegations of sexually inappropriate and racially discriminatory behavior.
George Tyndall was put on administrative leave in June 2016 when the investigation into his conduct began, and was then fired by the University when the investigation concluded.
In 2016, the USC Office of Equity and Diversity investigated Tyndall for sexual and racial misconduct with patients during physical exams. According to a summary of findings released by the University, Tyndall’s assistants also raised concern regarding his method of digital penetration prior to insertion of a speculum, a tool used by medical officials to examine body orifices.
After the investigation, the University found that there were several filed complaints about Tyndall prior to that year; however, these cases had been independently handled by the former health center director, according to Nikias.
After discussing with external medical experts, criminal law experts and a medical review firm in 2016, the University concluded that there was no criminal activity about his examination practices to report.
After his termination in 2017, Tyndall said he would retire from the profession. However, in March 2018, Tyndall submitted a letter of reinstatement requesting to return to his position. This letter led the University to file a complaint to the California Medical Board and later contact the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office along with the police department, Nikias wrote in his letter.
The District Attorney’s office confirmed that USC contacted them regarding Tyndall and was subsequently referred to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“In hindsight, we should have made this report eight months earlier when he separated from the university,” Nikias wrote.
The USC Office of Equity and Diversity had initially conducted a review in 2013 after receiving complaints from staff members regarding the doctor’s use of racial slurs. After interviewing members who worked with Tyndall, OED concluded that they did not have sufficient information, according to the statement of facts released by the University.
Nikias also wrote that the University is working on finalizing an action plan “to build a foundation based on respect, care and ethical behavior.” He said that the plan calls for a restructuring of USC operations to focus on how complaints and investigations are handled.
“This issue, and other issues we have confronted recently at the university, teach us that I, my senior leadership team, and the entire USC community must work diligently and continuously to instill a culture that fully lives up to our values,” Nikias wrote. “This action plan builds significantly on numerous other steps that the university is taking to improve our culture, and our commitment to our students, our patients, and to each other.”
Nikias highlighted USC’s newly formed task force of faculty and staff members in 2016 to review the professional and medical practices being performed within the University. Sarah Van Orman was also selected as the center’s new chief medical director.
“We want to reassure you that our student health centers, under the leadership of Dr. Van Orman and the entire health system team, are committed to providing every student with the most respectful experience and highest quality care possible,” Nikias wrote. “We will provide her with the full resources necessary to support her efforts.”
Nikias said the University has already led training on reporting misbehavior and will continue to hold this type of training throughout the summer and fall.
“We understand that any unacceptable behavior by a health professional is a profound breach of trust,” Nikias wrote. “On behalf of the university, I sincerely apologize to any student who may have visited the student health center and did not receive the respectful care each individual deserves.”
The OED and the University did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Tomás Mier contributed to this report.